Islamabad gears up to deal with upcoming 'Azadi' March

October 23, 2019

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Motorists pass by containers that have been brought in to block roads leading to the Red Zone. — Photo provided by author
Motorists pass by containers that have been brought in to block roads leading to the Red Zone. — Photo provided by author
Trucks and lifters to lift containers brought in to block roads leading to the Red Zone. — Photo provided by author
Trucks and lifters to lift containers brought in to block roads leading to the Red Zone. — Photo provided by author

The federal government, as part of measures to maintain law and order during the upcoming 'Azadi' March, has mobilised containers to block off the capital city's Nadra and Serena roundabouts in order to secure the Red Zone.

According to police officials, Islamabad's Red Zone will be cordoned off with barbed wire and water cannons will be deployed to block protesters' entry. All entry and exit points will also be sealed, they said.

Islamabad residents who plan to join the protest, led by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), will be restricted in their districts, police officials said.

According to the plan drawn up by authorities, Islamabad will be divided into three layers of security. Police personnel will be deployed in the first zone, Frontier Corps in the second and Rangers in the third.

Police stations have also requisitioned riot gear from their armouries as they brace for a showdown with protesters, officials had told Dawn earlier this month.

Islamabad has not witnessed violent street protests since the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan’s 2017 lockdown. Islamabad police's riot gear, gifted by the United States, has been in storage since.

'Azadi' March

JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman had announced in June that his party had decided to hold an anti-government long march to Islamabad in the month of October in a bid to topple the government, which he sad had come to power through "fake" elections.

The Maulana had first set October 27 as the date for the long march, but later deferred it till October 31, saying they would instead organise rallies on October 27 to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir, who would be observing a black day all over the world against Indian atrocities in occupied Kashmir on that day.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday had constituted a seven-member team under Defence Minister Pervez Khattak to engage the JUI-F and other opposition parties ahead of their planned march. The JUI-F chief on Satur­day had given a go-ahead to his party’s secretary general and Senator Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri to meet the Senate chairman, who, as a member of the government negotiating team, had contacted him over telephone and sought a meeting.

On Sunday, after the PPP objected to the negotiations, Rehman had stopped his party's delegation from meeting Sanjrani, saying a decision on talks with the government would now be made by the opposition’s collective Rehbar Committee.

On Monday, after a meeting of the Rehbar Committee, JUI-F leader Akram Durrani told the media that the option of negotiations with the government is subject to the party being permitted to take out a peaceful 'Azadi March' on October 27.